THARPARKAR, SINDH (Staff Report) -At the Baanhn Beli office in Nagarparkar, Tharparkar, Sindh, close to the Pakistan-India border, a new project was launched at a simple yet colourful, well-attended event to prepare a comprehensive national strategy to protect and conserve endangered vultures.
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These birds have become a highly endangered species in Pakistan in recent years.
Serving as a unique scavenger bird for the past 50 million years which cleans the landscape from dead or rotting carcasses and is a vital link in the web of nature and ecosystems, the number of vultures in Pakistan has declined steeply over the past two decades. Nagarparkar Taluka is one of only two or three areas in the whole country where small colonies of vultures are still present.
A total of 224 residents of villages in Nagarparkar Taluka comprising 131 men and 93 women participated in the project launch ceremony. Volunteer-leaders of Baanhn Beli, a representative of IUCN, officials of the Departments of Wildlife, Forests, Local Administration of the Government of Sindh, leaders of other NGOs working in Tharparkar and village leaders addressed the gathering and gave relevant details.
Speakers highlighted the fact that the principal reason for the rapid and alarming reduction in the number of vultures is that a pain-killing drug known as “Diclofenic” normally administered to livestock to kill pain and increase weight and milk production proved to be catastrophically fatal for the internal organs of vultures. Similar rapid declines have been seen in India, Nepal and several countries in Africa. In 2006, the Government of Pakistan banned the production and use of veterinary medicines containing “Diclofenac” to save the rapidly declining vulture population.
However, unauthorised use of diclofenac continues and poses a threat to this remarkable species. Following the constitution of an Asia Regional Steering Committee on Vultures by IUCN in 2012, the Ministry of Climate Change has notified “National Vulture Recovery Committee” in 2012 to improve the coordination for conservation of vultures at the national level.
Several negative effects of the decline in the vulture population are already evident. These include contamination of the soil and water, infection of other species and human beings, increase in the number of feral dogs which feed on the dead or rotting carcasses and become dangerous animals for human settlements.
Concerted efforts on local, provincial, national and regional levels will be required to prepare and implement an effective strategy for the protection and conservation of vultures.
With this goal, the volunteer-led, community-based development organisation known as Baanhn Beli (a friend forever), now in its 31st year of public service in the Tharparkar arid region, in collaboration with IUCN-The International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s largest environment organisation has launched the project for the formulation of the National Vulture Conservation Strategy. USAID is proving funding support to the project.
Over the next 10 months, a series of coordinated actions are planned with the active participation of village communities, local resource persons, relevant officials, technical international and national experts to identify specific measures at multiple levels that will conserve existing numbers and promote their safe breeding. Consultations will also be held with the national and international experts on similar initiatives taken in South Asia and Africa.
The launch ceremony in Nagarparkar is being followed up with an inception ceremony on September 7, 2015.